Welcome To Your Library wins Libraries Change Lives Award 2007!

A UK-wide project developing the role of public libraries in supporting refugees and asylum seekers to promote social inclusion and build self-esteem has won the 2007 CILIP/LiS Libraries Change Lives Award. The winner was announced by Roger McGough, OBE, on 18 April 2007 at the Library + information Show (LiS), Hall 18, NEC, Birmingham.
‘Welcome to your library’ is a project that aims to increase opportunities for active engagement and participation by refugees and asylum seekers in public library service planning and delivery. It provides a crucial role and lifeline for many asylum seekers and refugees, who are amongst the most excluded, vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our communities. Two of the participating library services (Leicester and the London Borough of Camden) have successfully developed work experience and volunteering opportunities for refugees.

The project is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and co-ordinated through the London Libraries Development Agency. It began as a pilot in 2003 in five London boroughs (Brent, Camden, Enfield, Merton and Newham) and in 2005 extended nationally. The library services in the national phase are LB Hillingdon (with Healthy Hillingdon), Leicester, Liverpool, LB Southwark and Tyne and Wear (a consortium comprising Newcastle, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside and Sunderland councils).

Camden library service is offering 12 week structured work placements for refugees of 15 hours per week, contributing to refugee integration, a core theme of Camden’s social inclusion strategy. The scheme has been successful in building self-esteem, contact with the wider community and developing an understanding of workplace rules and regulations, enabling refugees to access basic skills including developing CVs and attending computer sessions in library learning centres. The programme also provides a daily routine to follow whilst balancing home and work life.

In Leicester Central library, 22 refugees have taken part and 13 have gone on to find jobs. The project has been proved successful on the evidence of the number of refugees who have found work and the feedback the library service has received from participants and partner organisations. Currently over 40 refugees in these two local authorities have participated and over half have subsequently found jobs, with other positive impacts on participants, on communities and on the library service. (Website for the project as a whole: www.welcometoyourlibrary.org.uk. To view films of the project finalists, visit www.myspace.com/librarieschangelives).

Helen Carpenter, Project Co-ordinator, Welcome To Your Library, comments on winning this year’s award:

“By successfully engaging refugees and asylum seekers in public library service planning and delivery, Welcome To Your Library is at the cutting edge of public library practice, reinforcing libraries’ key role as place shapers in 21st century communities. Sharing good practice is key. The Libraries Change Lives award is recognition not only of the success of the refugee work placement and volunteering schemes in Camden and Leicester, but also of the work by all the library services involved in the project across the country and that of numerous partners.”

Nigel Thomas, Chair of the judges committee and member of the supporting Community Services Group of CILIP comments on this year’s award.

“The LCL award highlights excellent practice by libraries, who work in partnership in tackling social exclusion issues on the front line. The panel of judges felt that this project showed how libraries could change the lives of refugees and asylum seekers who came to this country seeking help and support. We found that the project challenged prejudices and perceptions and enabled its target group to gain a real foothold in building a new life. We are delighted that it has been recognised.”

This is the 15th year of the national award that recognises innovative and exciting work in libraries and their communities. The award was established in 1992 to acknowledge and reward libraries and information services working with disadvantaged groups to combat inequality, including the unemployed, homeless, persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

Since its inception, the award has had a significant impact on the world of libraries and their local communities across the UK. Previous winners include Bookstart; the Government-backed scheme that was first piloted by Birmingham Libraries and now reaches 3 million babies and their parents across the UK. The project has also been recognised as making a significant difference to literacy and numeracy levels in primary schools. Another scheme, the Big Book Share, winner of the Libraries Change Lives Award in 2002 has been successful in helping fathers in prison to keep contact with their children through reading to them on tapes.

Evelyn Kilmurry, one of this year’s judges and leader of Sighthill Libraries youth work project, says of winning the award in 2006, “Winning last year’s Libraries Change Lives Award has given everyone who has been involved in the initiative, including the staff team, local community and young people themselves, a huge boost in what has been an incredibly rewarding and positive year. The project has benefited from unprecedented media interest, increased levels of funding and has opened up a new world of exciting partnership opportunities for future continued success. Above all else, winning has allowed us to take a step back from our every day work in community libraries to appreciate that what we do really does change people’s lives.”

Twenty-six library-based projects were entered for the 2007 award. The winning project receives a trophy and £5,000 prize money. The two runners-up both receive a cheque for £2,000. This year’s judges are: Nigel Thomas (Chair) from Leicestershire Libraries, Evelyn Kilmurry from Edinburgh Libraries, Carole Wolstenholme from East Lancashire Libraries, Linda Constable from Bournemouth Libraries and Katherine Allen, Event Director for LiS. The award is sponsored by the Library + information Show. The event is organised and administered by CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and its Community Service Group.

The Library + information Show (LiS) takes place at the NEC Birmingham on 18 and 19 April 2006. Now in its 18th year, it caters for all sectors of the library profession, bringing the library and information world together to share key industry developments, the latest technology, exchange ideas and debate current issues. For more information please visit: www.lishow.co.uk.

Contact: Philippa Perry at Philippa Perry Associates
Tel: 020 8996 1737 Email: pnlp@dircon.co.uk  

Mark Taylor at CILIP
Tel: 020 7255 0650 Email: mark.taylor@cilip.org.uk  

Notes to Editors:

For case studies or to speak to any of the people involved in the projects, please contact: Philippa Perry (details above)

1. CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals
CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is the leading professional body for librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers, with around 22,000 members working in all sectors, including business and industry, science and technology, further and higher education, schools, local and central government, the health service, the voluntary sector, national and public libraries. For more information about CILIP, please go to www.cilip.org.uk.

2. VNU Exhibitions Europe: is a B2B information provider specialising in producing highly focused trade exhibitions for the information technology, telecommunications and information industries.
For more information, please visit: www.vnuexhibitions.co.uk.
For information about LiS and VNU Exhibitions, contact: Jane Lewis at VNU on 020 7316 9532. Email: jane.lewis@vnuexhibitions.co.uk

3. Two other shortlisted library projects were:

  • Read Yourself Well- East Ayrshire Library, Registration and Information Services
  • LARGE (Leeds Always Reading Group for Everyone) – Leeds School Library Service
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